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Total War: Rome II
War. What is it good for? Beats me, but I’ll tell you one thing: it’s certainly good for inspiring countless videogame simulations.
Of these, the Total War series stands tall, a (jar) head above the rest, its depiction of the theatre of war a scale and historic accuracy few have attempted, let alone succeeded at. From ancient Japan to medieval Europe, few eras have escaped the attention of Creative Assembly’s franchise, and now – actually for a second time – it’s the turn of the Romans.
Pharoah’s pharos! The Romans are coming, the Romans are coming!
Rome II transports us to a fledgling Roman Empire and challenges us to either nurture it into the Europe- and Africa-spanning colossus it truly became, or else trample it into the Italian dust by taking charge of one of the fledgling Republic's enemies.
Representing the rise and fall of Rome is no easy task. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the associated complexities, particularly when it comes to empire-building, have been captured only half-competently.
Strategy enthusiasts will know the thrill of handling such minutiae when they are replicated well. Here though, problems with enemy AI – they’ll constantly lay siege one to city for no apparent reason, for instance – and a lack of useful feedback mean you’ll spend endless hours on the irksome micromanagement of your cities.
Much of this city management can be automated, but even then finishing a turn chugs slowly with mandated decision-making and computer processing. It all means you spend far too much time away from where the action is: the battlefield.
Rome II depicts the violent part of war rather beautifully. Zooming your camera into a charge of elephant cavalry is simply breathtaking at times, while watching battalions of soldiers clashing swords is mesmerising.
Though, at times, I felt completely lost in a world of tactics and strategy, I still took much pleasure in its battles simply as sheer spectacle. And even my brief jaunt on to the online portion of Rome II to check it works (it does) was enough to see how strategists might lose chunks of time as virtual Caesars.
Germania down the drainia
However – despite the admitted delights of witnessing your legions trample your opponents into the dust – there’s just too much superfluous detail in the micro-managing of your empire to really make Rome II an unqualified success. ®